Satō does not see herself as a “dirty adult,” despite being self-aware enough to realize her attraction is wrong because she doesn’t physically harm Shio. Dirty adult is a phrase mostly used by teenagers in this anime. Happy Sugar Life explores the idea of a sheep in wolf clothing, and dirty adult is the phrase that is used to express that. They use this when referring to older people who seek to harm kids. For example, Satō uses it as an insult against her boss as she exposes what she has done to Taiyō. Asahi interestingly uses it against Taiyō when discovering his lies about his sister.
However, Satō is a dirty adult because, by the end of the anime, Shio feels she is in love with Satō. Satō’s grooming, with the help of Stockholm syndrome and familial abandonment, is what convinces Shio to turn her back on her brother. It is Shio who pushes them off the roof together in a loving embrace, which is the the greatest proof of her Stockholm syndrome. As they fall together, Satō expresses that for Shio their love feels even deeper than she feels. Her last words to Shio more or less translate to “I hope you still love me when we are reborn.” I feel this was meant to have a double meaning. The first of which is quite obvious and is a reflection of their current actions and religious beliefs.
Shio has pushed them to their deaths. Their love has been forbidden in this life, so maybe in the next one, they can fall in love under more appropriate conditions. However, there is a part of me that thinks that is a final act of “kindness” to Shio. I stated that Satō makes this strange revelation that their relationship means more to Shio than she does. Now, it is important to note that she is not shown to think this mockingly or as a negative. She is shown to be happy and in tears, knowing that Shio loves her. I think this statement is meant to mean that Satō recognizes that this experience has had a greater impact on Shio than on her. Satō is not wrong for thinking this.
This revelation, I think, is what fuels Satō’s attempt to allow Shio to survive the fall. It is hard to find anyone who is not perplexed about how to feel about the kindness Satō shows Shio throughout the anime. Shio herself believes that Satō sacrificed herself for her. We can see that Satō wraps Shio into her as they are about to hit the ground. I do believe that Satō would have held her that way regardless and left it up to chance if either of them would live. This leads me to the other meaning of her last words to Shio. This interpretation mostly comes from Shio’s own beliefs.
Shio thinks Satō allowed her to live and that her last words meant that Satō is now living inside of her. The audience is shown this to be the case when Shio’s brother goes to visit her and only sees Satō in her eyes. We can count this as a form of rebirth because Shio is entirely different by the end of the anime. Her sweet and optimistic personality is still there, but she is far more mature. There is a change in her voice that does not sound as naive and innocent as before. She talks as if she lives in a dream and uses a more whimsical but slow tone. However, this rebirth is quite sad.
The rebirth Shio thinks she had ties back to their relationship, which affected Shio more than it did Satō. The audience has to constantly remind themselves that this is an eight-year-old girl suffering from Stockholm syndrome and abandonment issues. Shio is still far too young to understand the effects the surrounding relationships will have on her. Shio is also seen holding Satō’s hair ribbon, which was the ribbon on the jar Satō’s aunt used to keep candies in. This is a symbol of the toxic cycle of abuse started by Satō’s aunt that will continue with Shio.
I do not think Satō died realizing that she did not make Shio any better. I would like to assume that if she did sacrifice herself for Shio, she hoped Shio would grow into a happier person now that Shio has known “true love” with Satō. Satō, herself, lived a very promiscuous life in search of love because she never felt it from the people around her in a healthy way. All in all, I love that we can see Shio holding the ribbon in the ending scenes of Happy Sugar Life. Because it is a reminder that the anime does not want us to think these kinds of relationships are morally correct and worthy of romanticizing.
I enjoy the fact that Happy Sugar Life showed the multiple faces where violence and abuse against children can happen. By this, I mean I am happy they chose female leads to make the story about. It exposes how many people overlook and make excuses for female predators. The anime was also very well paced, and I agree with how they reveal major plot points. Such as the discovery that Satō has murdered the owner of the apartment building and the big reveal of Satō’s aunt. I also like all the characters and their personalities.
My only complaint is the instant love and lust everyone had. I cannot be too hard on Happy Sugar Life for this, considering this is pretty common in anime, and it is meant to drive home the theme of obsession. However, it is still a bit off-putting. All in all, I would recommend Happy Sugar Life to anyone who can stomach sensitive topics. It is a lot easier to digest than Lolita and has many similarities to the classic. As stated, it is not explicitly sexual and is more of a psychological horror. I will for sure watch it again myself because it is officially in my top twenty favorite anime series of all time.
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